We live in a time where it is easy to lose track of the goodness and color. A vast diversity of humanity exists in a world where crushing greed and extraordinary evil are mainstream.

We live in a time where racism is prevalent and children starve in the streets, we live in a world where dumpsters are filled with flowers and fresh oranges, and we need to remember the art. We need to contemplate beauty as much as we absorb the daily hate crimes and oppression from all angles.

We need to pause the anger so we can hug random strangers in the street. We must pet dogs with fingerless gloves and smile back at little children. We must say hello to our neighbors and engage the community with open arms.

How can you participate in activism? Be active! The first step to making a change is to just go for it! Feed people, tell them you love them, make their day happy on purpose.

Everyone is beautiful and deserves flowers! Flowers have magic powers. People always grabbed them to share with others too, spreading smiles that would have just been rotting in a dump otherwise.

After major Hallmark holidays stores throw out garbage bags and buckets full of beautiful bouquets of flowers. Waste Not Want Not and Food Not Bombs are two Freegan groups that I am involved with that go into the dumpsters and salvage things like produce and flowers from landfills.

This is our second time handing out free flowers. I wrote a similar blog last year and was inspired to do so again because it is important, check out Dumpster Diving for Sustainability.

I haven’t gone dumpster diving in a while. Well, I am more of a spectator because I feel like if I climbed in I would not be able to get out. I should get a step stool. A head lamp and work gloves are also important. Bring boxes and garbage bags for the haul.

Look for food that is in sealed packaging or fruits and veggies with a tough outer skin that can be washed. Most smaller grocery stores do not have compactors, so if they leave their dumpsters unlocked you are good to go.

It is incredible what people are going through. A little bit of joy can change the world.

The other day we had a burlesque show and a man who was in the military, suffering from PTSD and suicidal thoughts, came to it and told us that he felt better after seeing our show! The comedy and light we put out into the night saved someone’s life. He is going to come back every Tuesday.

It is so important to remember that not everyone is as privileged as you are, not everyone has a place to live or a family that loves them. Some people live in the shadow of atrocity. They are forced to wallow in the splinters and shards of broken glass. Lift them up by sharing in the bounty, help the world be a better place, and always remember to love each other!

After we shared flowers my friend stopped at a restaurant to pick up leftover rice and beans and at a coffee shop for some bread, then dropped it off at Friends of the Night People, where they serve the homeless daily. He also saved literally 800 pounds of plantain bananas today as well, and we gleamed some persimmons.

I learned a lot about urban foraging the other day. It feels good to connect things that would have been wasted to people that need them to survive. I don’t know what I would do without my Food Not Bombs salvaged produced, it feeds me for the whole week.

The Salvage Supper Club hosts dinners in “clean decked out dumpsters”. The group of activists have thrown dumpster parties in Brooklyn, Berkely and San Franciso.

I love the idea of a fancy sit down meal made of saved food right in the dumpster to promote better waste consciousness. People need to be engaged and excited about waste prevention. Landfills are terrible for the environment. Many people are rescuing food from restaurants and grocery stores across the world.

With friends, I am currently working on a Food Not Bombs mural in the basement of the Hostel Buffalo Niagara where I work. It is fun to represent the community in this piece, I will post photos when it is complete.

Although it is monumentally important to create political art and art that sheds light on terrible things, sometimes it is refreshing to see something whimsical and fun just for the sake of being lovely. Art that is childish and kind, art that makes people smile.

Currently there is an artist installing work based on his twin four year old sons. They are incredible! 15 feet tall, sort of pixilated Rockum Sockum robots meet Lego versions of “Larger Than Life” children. It reminds us of innocence and feeling like you can accomplish anything.

Kids are born with that sense of giant wonder, they are color blind, they are confident. They must continue to be nurtured by adults who remember what it’s like to be a child.

I have seen at least 10 people walk by the window and smile, never forget how to smile. Let the sunshine into your heat and always remember to love each other fully and proudly, out in the open.

Love is free! Spread the seeds so they can grow into flowers and bloom rainbows of positivity.

Yesterday marked a historic occasion. It wasn’t just the meeting of the Canadian Prime Minister and the American President, those things happen all the time. This occasion was historic for no two leaders could be so different.

The American President is an inexperienced physically repulsive fascist classist racist misogynist who is suspected of not only tax evasion and sexual assault but also of high treason against his own country, treason, which most likely led to his current position as leader of the free world.

The Canadian Prime Minister is young, handsome, openly feminist, physically fit, and has made efforts to reconcile white Canadians with its racial and ethnic minorities. Unlike President Agent Orange, Trudeau has political experience and there is no disputing that he won his position somewhat fairly.

People watched on the edge of their seats yesterday as the two of them met.

For Canadian politicians and businessmen, the big concern was North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

The Agreement was negotiated between Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, US President George H. W. Bush and President Carlos Salinas de Gortari of Mexico. It has recently become a yuge cause of worry because Cheeto Head’s electoral campaign was marked by inflammatory rhetoric branding NAFTA a bad deal that had to be renegotiated for the sake of American workers.

According to Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister and de facto Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, updating treaties is routine. On February 8, 2017 she told the CBC that NAFTA has had at least eleven updates since it came into force in January 1994. She also said that if the Americans are looking for a better deal, Canada has every intention of going on the offensive and protecting our national interests.

To everyone’s surprise, yesterday’s meeting went well. People were concerned because of Trump’s talent for bullying other men and many thought that Trudeau’s popularity and good looks would bring that out. It seems, however, that our Prime Minister knows and applied the tactic that works with all vain, self-important wealthy old men: flattery.

Trudeau presented the Orange Narcissist with something he knew he’d love: a picture of himself (with his father). By the end of the meeting the President emphasized that his issues with NAFTA were primarily about Mexico and in a joint statement he and the Prime Minister said that:

“We recognize our profound shared economic interests, and will work tirelessly to provide growth and jobs for both countries.”

This is a far cry from the words of Minister Freeland, so it’s time to look at NAFTA and what it actually says.

The Agreement’s main goal is to eliminate trade barriers and facilitate the cross-border movement of goods and services between Canada, the United States and Mexico. It contains a lot of rules about intellectual property and different industries but the main issue with NAFTA seems to be regarding tariffs.

Tariffs, also known as customs duties, are taxes that must be paid on a particular class of imports or exports. The practice of imposing them serves to protect products produced domestically and helps to set the prices of certain classes of goods.

Tariffs have become a big issue because NAFTA discourages tariff use and President Agent Orange’s picks for Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross Jr, and Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, are in favor of tariffs.

As per NAFTA, no party can increase existing tariffs or adopt new ones on goods produced in a member state. Parties to the Agreement also have to eliminate existing customs duties as per a schedule set in the Agreement but can consult with one another on how to speed up the process thus doing away with tariffs ahead of schedule.

Until the Orange Racist Misogynist’s picks for Commerce Secretary and Trade Representative are confirmed, no re-negotiation of NAFTA can take place. It’s therefore time to look at who these men are.

The President’s pick for Commerce Secretary is billionaire investor Wilbur Ross Jr. He is deeply critical of trade agreements, NAFTA included, and wants to impose a thirty five percent tariff on the goods of companies that send jobs overseas.

Ross is also a hypocrite for as Reuters reported, he is guilty of sending two thousand seven hundred American jobs overseas since 2004. Ross justified the move by claiming he was able to save other jobs in the process, but it nonetheless adds to his questionable reputation.

With the Orange Administration already under suspicion for links to Russian espionage, nominating Ross, who has close financial ties to the Renova Group, a conglomerate closely linked to the Kremlin does not bode well for his chances of confirmation. As Commerce Secretary, he would be responsible for the US Patent and Trade Office, the Census Bureau, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration among others, if confirmed.

Then there’s the pick for US Trade Representative, Robert Lighthizer, a man whose last name sounds like an infomercial fitness product. Unlike Ross, Lighthizer has a lot of political experience, having served as a Reagan Administration Trade Official. He is a skeptic of free trade, advocates for increasing tariffs on imports from competitors, and if confirmed as Trade Representative, will be responsible for negotiating trade agreements and representing the US at the World Trade Organization.

Of the two men, Lighthizer is the one most likely to be confirmed with minimal conflict. It is unlikely, however, that any decisions they make will affect Canada’s obligations as per NAFTA. Canada shares the largest and least defended border with the United States and the US is our greatest trading partner.

With our Prime Minister’s charm, feminism, and message of welcome, tolerance, and inclusiveness, we look like pillars of virtue compared to our neighbors to the South and they know it. So long as Trudeau continues to fluff Cheeto-Head’s fragile ego, we can take comfort in the fact the White House won’t give any trouble, NAFTA or not, if only because standing next to us makes them look a little less awful.

On January 31, 2017 US President Cheeto-Head named Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The nomination fulfills Cheeto-Head’s promise to name a conservative justice “in the mold of Scalia” if elected president (legally or illegally). Since so much of what the Orange Racist Misogynist Tax Evader has done is questionable at best, it is time to take a serious look at the man he has appointed to the highest court in the United States.

Neil Gorsuch is in many ways the embodiment of what conservative Christian Republicans think a judge or politician should be. He is a white middle aged male who Is devoutly Christian, but not Catholic (his family are Episcopalian). He is well spoken, looks good in a suit and tie, and while he and his college sweetheart wife and two kids raise horses, chickens, and goats at their home in Colorado, they are no rednecks.

His family has a history of serving Republican presidents. Gorsuch’s mother, politician and lawyer Anne Gorsuch Burford, was appointed by former president Ronald Reagan to run the Environmental Protection Agency. For Republican climate-change deniers, Gorsuch Burford was ideal for she slashed the EPA’s budget, cut most clean water regulations from the books, and filled vital positions within the Agency with people from the very industries it was supposed to be checking. The scandals resulting from her actions led to her resignation in 1983.

Gorsuch’s resume is impressive. He is a graduate of Columbia, Harvard, and Oxford. After a couple of clerkships with conservative judges, he worked in private practice at a prestigious law firm in Washington DC for ten years and eventually ended up as a Federal Appelate Judge based in Colorado. At the same time Gorsuch has served as an occasional adjunct law professor at the University of Colorado.

There are also a lot of concerns about Judge Gorsuch.

People are worried that he is anti woman and would choose religious freedoms over people’s right to self determination.

There is a lot of evidence to support this worry.

While at Oxford, Gorsuch studied under Professor John Finnis, an Australian legal scholar who is considered an expert on natural law. After his studies, the Gorsuch and Finnis remained close. This seems harmless, but it’s not when you consider that Gorsuch’s mentor wrote about “the evil of homosexual conduct” in 1994 and has been branded a hatemonger by many.

As a judge, Gorsuch has a history of favoring religious freedoms over people’s right to health care and self determination. In the famous Hobby Lobby and Little Sisters of the Poor cases involving for-profit corporations demanding religious exemptions from the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act requiring corporate health plans to cover contraceptives for female employees on penalty of fines for refusal, Gorsuch sided with the corporations. In the Little Sisters of the Poor decision, he wrote that it was:

“An issue that has little to do with contraception and a great deal to do with religious liberty … When a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.”

Though Gorsuch has never decided an abortion case, he did publish a book called The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in 2009 and many argue that the views expressed in it could easily transfer to abortion. In his book he says that human life is “fundamentally and inherently valuable, and that the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.”

Whether this view actually extends to abortion remains to be seen, but it has caused enough concern that the National Institute for Reproductive Health has called his appointment “an extension of the Trump administration’s attack on women’s rights,” and Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted on January 31, 2017 that:

Despite his worrisome track record on certain issues, Gorsuch does show promise for two fundamental reasons.

First, he is outspokenly against excessive criminalization. That means that he thinks there are too many criminal laws punishing ordinary behavior on the books.

In 2013 he gave the 13th Annual Barbara K. Olsen Memorial Lecture in which he points out that too many laws violate people’s rights to fair notice to the point that “criminal law comes to cover so many facets of daily life that prosecutors can almost choose their targets with impunity.”

Neil Gorsuch’s legal decisions reflect this belief as he often sides with defendants in criminal cases. This bodes well when it comes to issues of race for African Americans and Hispanics are excessively targeted and prosecuted in the United States.

Another reason to hope is because of Gorsuch’s belief in the judiciary’s role in containing the excesses of Executive Power. He is in favor of term limits for elected officials because “men are not angels.”

Though, like Scalia, he believes in interpreting the constitution from the perspective of its authors. This comes with an understanding of the need to enforce the checks and balances on the legislative and executive branches to save the country from abuse by those who govern it.

Though thus far only lower courts have halted the enforcement of abusive and illegal Executive Orders from the Oval Office, Gorsuch’s reputation as a principled jurist against executive excess suggests that he would not hesitate to rule against the White House if he ascended to the Supreme Court.

Though there is hope for the United States, there is also the danger of a deadlock. Democrats are still bitter about the Senate’s refusal to confirm Judge Merrick Garland, who was named to the Supreme Court by Barack Obama. Like Garland, Gorsuch is mostly respected across party lines, so the question remains whether the Senate will do its job this time, or give the Cheeto Administration the silent treatment.

I need to take my place in the revolution.

“It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me and I’m Feelin Good”

-Miss Nina Simone

I feel like shit to be honest. What does it matter? The world is about to end. All of the post apocalyptic sci-fi movies are coming to fruition. The evil dictator is in place and the people will rise after the world burns and society as we know it is overthrown.

My heart is overgrown, split ends, over bleached, and arid dry. Like the acid sky, what does it matter if I cry? Again I choose the path of positivity, moving forward, crossing things off the bucket list. I need to do me, right? NO!

It’s Black History month in the darkest time of our current social climate. I want to be there to fight for freedom and acknowledgement of hate, I want to stop the white power bullshit that raised this country to the open levels of bigotry we see today. I can’t even stop my best friend from being racist.

America the beautiful was built on the destruction of Indigenous people and slavery. Immigrants came next, but it started with human bondage, then it was a safe haven, and not much has changed.

It has just gotten worse. Strange fruit and hate fueled power struggles and world poverty. More people care about celebrities and gossip than real world issues or the idea that people and animals are suffering while we live posh lives on the internet.

My people are all Gay, they are Transgender, they are non conforming, they are Native American, they are Black, they are Muslim, they are atheist, they are butch, they are femme, they are anarchists, they are addicted, they are homeless, they are vegan, they are white people who are trying to break the cycle. They are all ages, they are sex workers, they are on food stamps, they pay rent, they don’t get paid enough and work too many hours, and they are all slaves to the system built to fail us.

I sit here with EAT THE RICH written in eye liner on my belly, dreaming of gas masks and pink tear gas. I once painted a version of Marie Antoinette with a gas mask. This is it, our reality is that we have a war to fight, we can’t just let them eat cake! I assure you, nothing about me is fake.

Or is it? I am only human. Human means flawed by nature, and not in a catholic guilt original sin way either. Imperfections make us beautiful. That also means there is a dark to every light. There is a good happening to suppress evil as we sit here contemplating the existence of both.

From this moment, our numbness from over stimulation mass sensory overload outnumbers us. It closes in on us. It interrupts us like shitty commercials. I always knew twitter was creepy. We want a leader not a creepy tweeter was one of my favorite women’s march chants.

I yearn for a silence echoing inside the roots of my strange deepness, a vacant soul on a transient descent. The train has left the yard, next stop salvation.

Why can’t adults just take naps? For me it’s not a nap. I will spend the whole day in bed and waste the light, then go out and party all night. I may not even drink, but usually do.

It’s just a craving for company. Not even in a miserable way, just in more of a we are stronger together way. I need collaboration. I know that I cannot change this world without you.

I should relish in my singledom. I can pick up and go to Mardi Gras if I want, only a 24 hour drive away. I’ve been a temptress for so long, just floating through life without a care in the world. Now it crumbles and I need to stand up.

I tend to zone out and get disconnected from reality for a moment. I watch porn when I should be watching the Young Turks. I scan Facebook when I should be out on the street protesting or having a conversation with the human next to me.

Is it weird that I have dinner with my folks twice a week at age 30? Going to a hockey game with my dad tonight, now tainted because I know the owner of the Buffalo Sabres (Terry Pegula) got his money from FRACKING.

Our Earth and water are more important than any money or sports team. I just want to spend some quality time with my dad. Having a conscience means being conscious about where your money goes.

I want to only be ethical. Other people are having children. I will get a dog. I would have to move, get a new place, buy my own house.

I would love to live in the country. No wifi. No connection to the outside world. I would feel so much more connected to nature and not the devices that rule us all.

I need my furry family, I need a solace, someone to help me fight back but not lose myself in the battle. I want to date a vegan. Musician/artist necessary. Gender/race does not matter.

Think happy thoughts. Painting, riding my tricycle, doing my hair and makeup, dressing in drag, vegan cuisine, letting my friends borrow clothes, smoking bongs, things made out of recycled things, going on adventures with the most down people, nature and natural wonders, waterfalls, art, music, musicians.

I love my kittens. There is a reason why the Egyptians worshipped cats. So cute, cuddly, and protective. I do love life, I know I come from a privilege not known to everyone, and that means I need to step up and stop being greedy.

Things I hate: Coughing so hard from hitting the bong that you pee a little. Getting up to pee and somebody is in the bathroom. When people throw out/waste food. The fact that women make less than men for the same job. The fact that donald trump has been in office for a week and the world burns, pipelines, oil, greed, orange tans.

Sometimes I cry because I have psoriasis or because I am fat. I feel unlovable, like I am hiding behind my smile, head in the clouds, not what I seem, much more deviant, but not sure how.

I am a sensitive artist. What good do my pictures really do? Do my performances matter? Yes! Even if people hate, they can relate. I can be the worst version of humanity (trump drag/Cock Sinclair) or a vision of pure loveliness veiled in makeup and fishnet, bound by a corset and all of society’s expectations, ruled by old men in suits and misguided evil rich women.

I really wanted to write something non political this week but it is all consuming. The ban on immigrants is immoral and disgusting. Pushing forward the Dakota Pipeline is also inhumane and disrespecting mother earth and the indigenous people’s land.

Water IS Life. Not in Flint Michigan or the Buffalo Public Schools, it’s second rate there. This is like the movie/comic Tank Girl. Buffalo’s freshwater is so important for the apocalypse. Great lakes, great spot, like the wet spot on the sheets that Trump had a Russian hooker piss on in the name of freedom.

Dripping in gold or rust you must wake up and shake off the nonsense. Every voice counts. Be heard.

On January 27, 2017 the President of the United States signed an Executive Order, one of his first acts as leader of the free world. Its premise is to protect Americans from the alleged threat of terrorists pretending to be refugees in order to get into the United States.

There has been a lot of discussion about this Order. Some people are calling it a Muslim ban, while others are justifying it as a legitimate and reasonable approach to American security. What no one seems to be doing is actually reading the Order itself.

Whoever wrote the Executive Order deserves a medal for literature. It is subtle and eloquent in a way the man who signed it will never be.

Does it ban Muslims outright?

No.

What the Executive Order does is suspend immigrant and non-immigrant entry into the United States from certain countries “of Particular Concern”.

Refugees from Syria are denied entry until the president says otherwise. People from countries designated by the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security as having repeatedly provided support for international terrorism are also banned, but for a period of ninety days.

This list (so far) includes Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Saudi Arabia, which is known for encouraging the extremist Islamic beliefs adopted by terrorists, is suspiciously absent from this list. Whether this is due to the President’s business dealings with the Kingdom or vested American interest in maintaining relations with them is unclear.

The Order also changes the criteria for refugee claims, prioritizing those “made by individuals on the basis of religious-based persecution, provided that the religion of the individual is a minority religion in the individual’s country of nationality”.

As most of the refugees are from Muslim-majority countries, most of those seeking safety in the United States are Muslim.

Though the Order says that “the United States should not admit those who engage in acts of bigotry or hatred (including ‘honor’ killings, other forms of violence against women, or the persecution of those who practice religions different from their own) or those who would oppress Americans of any race, gender, or sexual orientation”, it does not offer any protection to people fleeing persecution due to gender, sexual orientation, or race. Being a member of a religious minority seems to be the only exception to the ban.

The Order speaks of these new rules as necessary in part to “reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies”. However, it calls for a flurry of security reports to be provided by the Secretary of State, Director of Homeland Security, and the Directors of the FBI and of National Intelligence and says that the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security can admit individual refugees on a case-by-case basis. All this sounds like MORE of a burden, not less.

Is this Executive Order legal?

Not according to the former acting Attorney General Sally Yates. A holdover from the Obama administration, she was asked by the new administration to stay on until the president’s nominee for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is confirmed by the Senate.

Last night, Yates told the US Department of Justice not to defend the Executive Order in the courts. In a letter to Justice Department lawyers, she said:

“I am responsible for ensuring that the positions we take in court remain consistent with this institution’s solemn obligation to always seek justice and stand for what is right…At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful.”

She is not the first to acknowledge the Order as potentially illegal.

On January 28, 2017, a Federal Court in New York presided by Judge Ann Donnelly granted an Emergency Motion of Stay Removal to Hamid Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi who’d risked his life acting as interpreter to the US army during the Iraq war, and Haider Sameer Abdulkhaleq Alshawi, another Iraqi who was en route to reunite with his wife and child in the US. Both were detained at the airport under the Executive Order and with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, fought back.

In her decision, Judge Donnelly said

“The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioner and others similarly situated violates their rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”

Many other federal courts have followed suit, granting stays blocking the Executive Order from being enforced.

When you read the US Constitution, something the president has clearly never done, it is easy to understand why the motions were granted.

Article I, Section 9 prohibits laws that single out any particular group for punishment without trial. The Fifth Amendment goes even further, stating that no person should be “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law”.

As far back as the Second World War, American courts have recognized the danger of Executive Orders like these. In 1944 in Korematsu v. The United States, the Supreme Court said that

“All legal restrictions which curtail the civil rights of a single racial group are immediately suspect… courts must subject them to the most rigid scrutiny. Pressing public necessity may sometimes justify the existence of such restrictions; racial antagonism never can.”

The President has rambled on about the danger of foreign terrorists masquerading as refugees, but neither he nor his administration have presented any numbers to back this up. Instead, he fired Sally Yates for refusing to enforce an Executive Order that is legally unenforceable, leaving his administration without anyone with the legal authority to sign warrants authorizing the surveillance of the foreigners he fears so much.

The reaction of protesters, public officials and the American courts are reasons to hope for all who hate xenophobia, for as comedian Aziz Ansari recently pointed out:

“Change doesn’t come from presidents. Change comes from large groups of angry people.”

If the protests and lawsuits are any indication, change is coming.

The Salon de L’Amour et de la Séduction aka The Everything to Do with Sex Show is Montreal’s annual sex show. The show is dedicated to being “the innovative force behind spreading openness and appreciation for all the different facets of romance, sexuality, and self-improvement.” The event is part trade show, is part performance show, and part lecture series.

The message is of the show is one of sex positivity. If you’re a self-professed prude and/or thinks that the free expression of consensual sexuality is evil, wrong, or shameful, stay away.

This show is not for you.

If you’re out to have some fun, get some sex toys or lingerie at discounted prices, and maybe see a show, the Salon is a must see. It features top burlesque acts and strippers and a kink corner where people are invited to explore and learn about alternate forms of sexuality.

The show is 18+, no exceptions, not even for babies, though given the loud noises and constant flurry of activity, the rule is understandable. The dress code is “Dress to Impress” and people are welcome to wear latex, leather, or lace. Though in Canada you are allowed to go topless, organizers ask that attendees keep their crotches covered.

In a curtained off corner of the space, there are seminars by sexperts such as Dr. Laurie Betito, a clinical psychologist specializing in sex therapy who has a radio show on CJAD about sex and relationships. She is also works with the Sexual Health Network of Quebec.

The Sexual Health Network of Quebec was one of the many sex positive nonprofit groups present at the show. The Network is an organization that believes that choices about sex are best made freely through education and provide free sex ed to youth in Montreal schools.

At the booth, they gave away condoms and sold T-shirts, bullet vibrators and flavored massage candles in support of their cause. When I spoke to one of their volunteers she told me that the election of Cheeto-Head in the US had not only increased donations to American nonprofits like Planned Parenthood, but also to groups like the Sexual Health Network, a public acknowledgment of their contribution to society’s sexual health.

Another non-profit at the show was the Alternate Lifestyles Community Center, an organization devoted to education, information, and support for alternative and marginalized sexual communities. As one of their volunteers put it, the organization acknowledges that we’re all fucked up and that it’s time to accept and work with it.

Photo by Chris Zacchia (Salon de l’amour 2011)

As the group was among many representing the kink community at the show, I asked the volunteer – Stephanie – what they thought of Fifty Shades of Grey. “It’s abuse,” she said.

On the one hand, she told me the books brought many people into the kink community who would not have explored that side of their sexuality. On the other hand the book gave these newbies an inaccurate notion of what kink is all about.

In the kink demonstrations held at the show, you saw the dominant constantly checking with the submissive, making sure she’s alright and is consenting to what’s being done to her. As Stephanie pointed out, in Fifty Shades of Grey the protagonist says No and uses her safe word but the dominant keeps going.

This is a violation of the rules of BDSM play which actually give the submissive control over what is happening. It is the dominant’s responsibility to take care of the sub and make sure they are ok with what is happening during a play session, also called a scene.

I asked the Stephanie whether BDSM contracts are necessary for play. The notion of having to have a contract for sex play sounds like a buzzkill and she agreed, partly due to the implications of calling it a contract. In their workshops on BDSM, the Center calls agreements about acceptable play negotiations, for calling it a contract suggests that violations would be enforceable in a court of law, which they usually aren’t.

Though many go to the Salon for information and to see a show, many go for the shopping. The Salon showcases vendors of sex toys, lingerie, and adult films, with business owners providing insights into their industries and the challenges they face.

Annick Samson and Jessica Filion are the proprietors of Vices & Caprices, a sex shop in Blainville that also sells online. Though their shop is new, they are already facing persecution from the City, which is claiming that their space in an 18+ tanning salon has not been zoned for their type of business.

There was also concern about exposing their products to children when neither their business nor the tanning salon permits underage customers. As it turns out, the complaint was not filed by parents or clergy, but by their competitor who is trying to force them out of business.

Another vendor at the show was Vid Vicious, an adult film director whose business card features the motto: “Keep Calm and Watch Porn!”

Vicious’ impressive resume includes films and Season 2 of Porn Star Academy, a French language reality TV show where competitors compete to become an adult film star.

I asked Vid about the status of the porn industry in Quebec and he said that it’s dying because Quebec consumers prefer American films over locally made ones. Vid also expressed frustrations about the illegal sharing of his films, saying that within a week of his movies coming out someone will have uploaded a copy onto a free site. When I asked how strictly copyright rules are enforced here, he spoke of the difficulties tracing the original uploader and how quickly people share the illegal uploads.

Montreal’s annual Salon is a weekend of fun, bringing warmth to an otherwise chilly city in the winter. It’s a place where nearly all are welcome, great for the shopping, shows, and lessons about sex that may prove handy someday. Check it out next year!

* Featured image by Jo Gorsky

In February of 1990, Barack Obama was the first black person elected to head the Harvard Law Review. The presidency of the Review is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School.

It’s therefore fitting that in his final days as the first black person to hold the highest office in the United States, Barack Obama has gone back to his roots by publishing a piece in the Harvard Law Review. His essay is called The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform and was published on January 5, 2017.

The article is many things. It’s well written and it’s footnoted so you never have any doubts as to where Obama is getting his facts from or whether he’s making them up. It puts faith in you as a reader because there’s never a word wasted. On the other hand it also requires you to do some visual acrobatics because his sources are cited within the text, requiring you to skip over the citations to read the rest of what he’s saying.

His piece is also a little self-aggrandizing, but unlike the incoming president, all the things Obama says are substantiated by facts. He highlights his tackling of racial profiling as a legislator in Illinois and all sources indicate that he did just that.

In 1999 he proposed a bill against racial profiling after hearing that police were pulling over drivers simply for being black. When the bill failed, he revised and reintroduced it over and over again until it passed in 2003, making a point of publicly saying that “race and ethnicity is not an indicator of criminal activity.”

He also mentioned pushing for the videotaping of police interrogations as a requirement for interrogations and confessions in all capital cases. A measure he helped to pass in Illinois.

Chart from the Harvard Law Review essay

As President, he used his power of clemency to pardon or reduce the sentences of 231 people, many of whom had been punished for minor, non-violent drug crimes under tough anti-drug laws. The impact of this gesture is huge, for unlike other pardons, presidential ones wipe away the legal consequences of previous criminal convictions.

Obama hints at his frustrations battling a Republican Congress determined to undermine him during his presidency. Though he successfully passed the Fair Sentencing Act in 2010 which eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for simple possession of crack cocaine thus reducing excessive punishments imposed on people of colour, he had no such luck with the Smarter Sentencing Act.

The Smarter Sentencing Act was a bipartisan – meaning supported by both Democrats and Republicans – bill that would have reduced mandatory minimum sentences for some nonviolent drug offenses from twenty years to ten, and given judges greater discretion regarding whether or not to impose said sentences.

Despite support across party lines, many Republicans were skeptical of the bill and it never made it to the floor of Congress. The same happened with the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, a law that would have reduced more mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and offered credits to prisoners who participate in rehabilitation programs. The Republicans tabled that one to death in November 2015.

Despite Obama’s frustrations with Congress in his attempts to pass progressive criminal justice reform, he constantly highlights his respect and faith in the American people and the rule of law.

In a none-too-subtle warning to the incoming president, Obama writes that the President “does not and should not decide who or what to investigate or prosecute.” He praises red states like Georgia, Texas and Alabama for reducing sentences and investing the money saved on incarceration in other public safety programs that help those affected by mental illness and substance abuse, many of whom had previously ended up in jail.

At the same time Obama highlights all the problems with the American Justice System: the systemic racism, overly harsh penalties for non-violent offenses, the excessive use of solitary confinement, and the economic problems caused by the US’ excessive use of incarceration. He points out that the US incarcerates 25% of its population and that the cost of maintaining so many prisons and the people within it is both “unnecessary and unsustainable.”

Though Democrats are widely accused of being fiscally irresponsible, it’s Republicans that always seem to be pushing for harsher penalties that increase the American prison population, thus straining state and national budgets regardless of whether or not it makes people safer. Obama quotes Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates who pointed out in November 2016 that every dollar spent on excessive sentences is “a dollar we don’t have for investigating emerging threats, from hackers to home grown terrorists,” a point that is especially relevant amidst widespread acknowledgement that the Russian government hacked the election to get an orange bigot into office.

Obama’s article reflects his awareness of the higher standard he was constantly being held to. In America people still seem to expect women and visible and sexual minorities and younger people to perform worse than middle aged white men at the same jobs, no matter how despicable and lazy individuals of the latter are.

Though the United States has less unemployment, a decreased federal prison population, and more people with health care due to Obama’s efforts, entitled rich white men are still questioning whether or not he was a good president. Obama clearly knows that he had to be beyond reproach during his time in office and while he did not achieve all he had promised – Guantanamo Bay has yet to be closed, for example – as a president he came pretty close despite all obstacles.

Regardless of what Barack Obama did or did not achieve, the one thing to take from his article is a warning that all the good that he did in his attempt to do right by the American people is in danger of being undone when a racist misogynist Russian puppet takes office on January 20, 2017.

I am an artist, I have been involved with and gone to a lot of art openings. It takes a lot of tedious work to curate and hang, to prepare, to get everything ready for public consumption.

The artist bares it all, it is terrifying, even if you are confident in your work. It is the culmination of months or years of dedication to your subject matter, it is who you are. One does not make art: you give birth to art.

Art openings are supposed to be a celebration of investigation, of the audience questioning and discerning for themselves. Usually they involve looking at art, some contemplation, maybe a paragraph on the wall to read, and oh yeah, wine, lots of wine and frivolity.

Recently I went to several openings, and noticed that I was being just another shitty hipster. I was drinking and laughing while a powerful black woman was literally hanging by her hair. I was white privilege incarnate, I was wrong.

The realization that I was part of the problem forever changed my attitude towards the current state of the art world, and made me look inside myself. Admitting you are wrong is only a small step.

Art is about expression, it is connection, it is the artist figuring out a way into the viewer’s soul. It is a shared experience, it is the extreme beauty and abject darkness made into “stuff” for us to be affected by. Art is what we feel, it is the heartbeat of the universe.

Art does not lie, it doesn’t know how. Are we just afraid of reality? Have I been so bound in my own small world that I did not know I was being just like every other asshole who didn’t pay attention? Apathy is evil.

My friend bared her soul, she spoke of a black woman’s relationship to her hair, and how a Eurocentric society has pressured her and her family to be forever. They conformed to survive, and were forced to abandon their culture and natural state of being to fit in with those who oppressed them, people who look just like me.

I do not want to be the oppressor, but it was happening. It was not until her boyfriend said “finale” that I finally went into the room, I finally listened. Standing in shame in front of her opus. What kind of woman lets another woman suffer alone?

Art is not just another opportunity to jerk ourselves off or flaunt our coolness. Go to an art opening to be with the art, respect the artist by giving your full attention.

The snacks are there but they are not everything. Yea, vegan cat shaped pizzas are fun, and sometimes art is fun, but other times it is serious.

The complimentary wine doesn’t mean stop looking, it doesn’t mean stop noticing or questioning. Art is not an excuse for social fuckery. Get drunk with ideas.

We are lost, using art for social gain instead of intellectual growth. You must actually show up to make a difference, be present in your community and pay attention to the world at large.

YES, it matters that atrocities are happening all over the world (and right here) while we sit here and complain about nonsense. Art is a record of that suffering, it is a shared feeling, we are transported to a moment or a dream when we view art. Ir is more than just looking, it should be a full all encompassing experience.

A look at my own art made me realize that even though I try to be woke to the evils of the world I still generalize, I still only touch the tip of being political. Art is direct action! Who am I fighting for?

I am not using this opportunity to say something. I need to stop making pretty things and start making change. We are on the verge of an apocalypse and we must actively be there for each other.

Use your power to give voices to the voiceless, a platform to stand on. Never objectify another’s experience by misrepresenting them or speaking for them.

I want this to be a public apology to every artist and subject I have ever disrespected. I promise to pay closer attention and think critically about the art I encounter and make from here on out. I will no longer shuffle off in ignorance, I will be there in silent solidarity. I will give you center stage. I will learn what you are teaching and immerse myself in your ideas.

Art is bigger than us, it is immortal, a record of the current (soon to be past) or already gone. Make art everyday, live it, and become it. Take this time to be present with me and let’s change the world.

 

 

 

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has been in the news a lot recently. This past December, they outraged Canadians by backtracking on a promise to reveal to a Senate Committee how many journalists they’ve spied on in the past, citing “operational security”.

Whenever the issue of terrorism or Bill C-51 comes up, CSIS is always mentioned. With all the talk about the organization, it’s time Canadians knew what they’re all about.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service is informally known as Canada’s spy agency. Created in 1984 with the passing of the CSIS Act in the aftermath of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and Quebec’s first sovereignty referendum, its official role is to investigate threats to Canadian security.

As per the CSIS Act, the following are considered threats to Canadian security:

  • Espionage or sabotage that is against Canada or is detrimental to the interests of Canada or activities directed toward or in support of such espionage or sabotage.
  • Foreign influenced activities within or relating to Canada that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive or involve a threat to any person.
  • Activities within or relating to Canada directed toward or in support of the threat or use of acts of serious violence against persons or property for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective within Canada or a foreign state.
  • Activities directed toward undermining by covert unlawful acts, or directed toward or intended ultimately to lead to the destruction or overthrow by violence of the constitutionally established system of government in Canada.

Lawful protests, advocacy, and dissent are not considered threats to Canadian security as per the Act unless they are accompanied by the acts listed above.

CSIS is headed by a Director who is named by the Governor in Council – the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, for a five year renewable term. As per the CSIS Act, no director can serve for more than ten years, a measure undoubtedly put in place to prevent corruption.

The current director of CSIS is Michel Coulombe, a former intelligence agent who was appointed by the Harper Government in 2013. He controls and manages and CSIS and all matters connected with it and he and his proxy are in charge of hiring CSIS employees.

Considering a Career?

While the RCMP has a long list of base qualifications such as health and psychological standards, visual and auditory acuity, and official language proficiency. CSIS’ requirements for employment seem much shorter and simpler.

In order to be considered for a position with CSIS, you need to be a Canadian Citizen eligible for Top Secret Security Clearance, have ten years’ worth of viable information – something that undoubtedly refers to employment, health, social services and financial records so you can be properly traced and vetted and have a valid permanent Canadian driver’s license for some posts. Detailed descriptions of various positions on CSIS’ careers’ website give greater insight into what’s needed to work for them.

Intelligence Officers are required to have a Bachelor’s Degree, three years of relevant experience, and be knowledgeable in the Service’s mandate and Canadian security threats as well as current events. They need to be good communicators verbally and in writing, analytical, adaptable, and sensitive to Canadian cultural mores – whatever those are, the website does not specify.

They also need to be willing to relocate anywhere in Canada or abroad depending on CSIS’ needs, be willing to travel and work irregular hours, and be without a criminal record. Though the CSIS doesn’t require bilingualism, knowledge of a foreign language is considered an asset.

Duties, Functions and Limits

The specific duties and functions of CSIS are set out primarily in the CSIS Act. Their primary role is intelligence collection and analysis, security screenings, and reducing threats to Canadian Security. Though the organization is widely perceived to be without limits, the law has many safeguards to keep it from overstepping its bounds.

Any measures taken by CSIS to reduce threats have to be proportional and reasonable to the nature of the threat as per the “reasonable availability of other means” to reduce it. They cannot take said measures if they will contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or any other law. There is an exception to this rule, but it requires a warrant from a Federal Court.

CSIS is not allowed to cause death or bodily harm either intentionally or by criminal negligence. They are not allowed to obstruct, pervert, or otherwise impede the course of justice, and they cannot violate the sexual integrity of a person.

While CSIS can provide security assessments to the government, they cannot do so willy nilly. They are only permitted to provide security assessments with the permission of the Federal Public Security Minister, and if they want to provide provinces with assessments, that is only with the consent of the provincial governments.

Whenever CSIS gets in trouble they always claim there’s nothing wrong with what they do or refuse to do because of all the safeguards in place to prevent abuses. The problem is that because the organization slips beneath the radar of the average citizen, no one ever bothers to check how strictly CSIS’ safeguards are enforced.

With our neighbors to the south slowly slipping into the depths of hell, it’s time Canada checked itself and our agents to ensure our continued place as the world’s sober voice of liberal democracy and freedom.

* Featured image of CSIS Headquarters in Ottawa from dailytech.com

So it finally happens, I meet someone who is brilliant and beautiful, funny, sweet, and holy shit INTERESTED IN ME. We talk all night, maybe even share an innocent kiss, and exchange numbers. I am excited for the first time in months.

Then BOOM, I do a teenie bit of Facebook stalking through our one mutual friend just to find out that they have a girlfriend. Dude, we live in a place and time where it seems that everyone is polyamorous. There is no need to lie to me or be unfaithful to your partner.

You have to be honest, and if you are poly but your partner is not, that throws a big curve ball into the situation. Perhaps rethink your monogamous relationship before bringing someone else into your shit. I have never cheated on someone I was dating.

My friend has gone through the same situation time and time again. After just ending a relationship where her mate came out as having a pregnant girlfriend at home, you would think her luck would get better. The next person she sleeps with is a good friend, who happens to be in an unhappy relationship that he won’t end. She then meets a handsome man at work, he flirts hard, they exchange info because he expressed interest in her show later that night.

Pretty quickly in he says that he has a girlfriend, he is “disappointed that he has a girlfriend,” waaaait, what? HE is disappointed? Then dump her and live your life! Don’t ever be with someone you are disappointed to be with, it’s not fair to her or you. My friend backed off on the conversation only to be textually bombarded by this same guy drunk a few days later begging her to come fuck him.

NO! Not allowed to do that. How dirty and second rate do you think she feels now? Gross bro, just stop.

I have another friend who knowingly had an affair with a married man. Now she feels like that’s the only people she attracts. It is definitely not her goal, she wants love like anyone else. Like they smell the mistress vibe on her or something. There is something about that, wanting to be with someone with no strings, knowing that they will never want more from you but the secret triste that is keeping them hard.

Often the mistress will get the best parts of their lover, they get the fantasy, the sex without the problems. They will also never get the support or companionship of a real relationship, but if that’s what you are looking for, it might be an ideal situation for you.

I remember hooking up with a guy I met on the internet a few years ago. We went on a few dates, he was so great, a poet, a musician, and a fun human. I called him “Big Jon” so you know the sex was amazing.

He must have written 100 poems about how beautiful I was in the short time we were together, I was smitten. He admitted to driving the wrong way on one way streets to get to my house sooner, he carried my bags and held the door for me. A total gentleman, until one night the truth came out.

After a session he said “I don’t want to smell like woman.” What? We just had sex, what to you expect to smell like? Flowers?

I asked him why and he said he didn’t want his wife to know about us. It must have been the whiskey and weed that made him so honest that night. It was the last time I ever saw him, I am NOBODY’S secret side bitch.

I actually did run into him in a dollar store maybe two months later. He had his son in the cart and a small, beautiful, tattooed woman with him putting stuff in the cart that I assume was his wife. They looked like a happy, functioning family.

I saw the panic in his eyes but just kept on walking without even acknowledging his existence. I am no home wrecker.

It’s a shock that people actually lie on online dating profiles, right? You know the guy who says he is 6’1 and single is probably 5’8 and married. There is no need to lie on these things, people are looking for all kinds of hook ups.

There are  websites dedicated to cheaters. Cheat with other cheaters! That’s a killer concept.

About a month ago I was at my favorite local watering hole when I saw man I had never seen before. He was beautiful, we danced, we chatted. He was a children’s book author!

I was in heaven, he touched my butt and kissed me and I thought, wow, finally an artist! Then all of a sudden he just said he couldn’t do this, no explanation.

I remembered the name of one of his books and googled him when I got home. He is married. Of course him and his wife write books together about their kids. Makes sense.

I do not accept being hidden in the shadows. You love me fully and out loud or you can’t have me at all. I am open to being with a polyamorous partner but have not successfully done so. I want to think that I can be open and communicate my needs, but it is not simple.

I know myself, I am passionate, I am all or nothing. I really want to be in love. I want to take care of someone, I want a human to love me, I want to be their serenity, I want to travel the world with someone who is proud to be with me.

Being single, I do have an active sexual lifestyle. I know I can get laid every day of the week if I really wanted to, but I don’t because I have respect for myself. I know that some people just want to get off and run.

Being single and beautiful makes me a target for assholes who put their wedding rings in their pocket on a Saturday night.

Married folks might be bored and I am certainly exciting. These people are looking for validation, they are looking for excitement, something that can often times be lost in long term relationships.

My availability is NOT an invitation. Just because I am single and looking does not mean I am looking for you, asshole. There is no burly football player boyfriend looming over me saying hands off buck, just lil ol me and my shining smile alone in the world.

I have learned to just hold out for what I want and never accept less. I will not compromise my morals for my libido. I will never knowingly take part in breaking up a relationship or marginalizing my own needs.

Maybe I should stop looking for love at bars? Or just come to terms with the fact that it seems most people over 30 are taken. Sadly, there is no way to safeguard yourself from these advances. Assholes happen, IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!

We all deserve nothing but the best even though we must swim through a stream of shit to get there.

The holidays are finally over.

It started for most of us with a nerve-racking family dinner and ended with a New Year’s Eve party where we drank away the stress of having to spend too much time with our relatives. Many of us spent the eve of the New Year drunk and partying and it’s likely that at least a third of us engaged in some kind of behavior that night that we now regret. Most of this is not blackmail-worthy, but in a world where lives are ruined by crimes like revenge porn, it’s important to know what laws are in place to protect us.

Revenge porn is the publication of explicit images, videos, or films of a person without consent in a situation where the victim would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Though revenge porn at its root is used to cause the victim distress, it’s often redistributed by some porn sites for commercial gain.

Fortunately, Canadian law is on it and has been working to tackle this crime.

Before 2014 the people in Canada who distributed intimate photos or videos of others without their consent could only be charged under the Criminal Code’s provisions on voyeurism, extortion, obscene publications, criminal harassment, defamatory libel, and in some cases child pornography. Unfortunately these laws have very specific requirements to get an indictment and conviction.

For example, extortion requires that the intimate material be used as a threat to force the victim to do something. Criminal harassment requires that the conduct make the victim fear for their safety or the safety of a loved one.

Sometimes charging people under these offenses worked, and sometimes it did not.

The people who drove Rehtaeh Parsons, a Halifax teen, to suicide in 2013 were charged with the distribution of child pornography. Parsons hung herself after photos of her being sexually assaulted by four boys circulated through her school resulting in texts and Facebook messages calling her a slut and soliciting her for sex.

Though none of the boys who assaulted her were charged with rape due to insufficient evidence, two of her attackers who filmed her later pled guilty to child pornography charges and were put on probation. Many agree this is hardly a sufficient punishment for people who drove an innocent young woman to her death.

Fortunately in 2014 the Canadian Criminal Code was amended to include article 162.1 regarding the unlawful publication of intimate images without consent.

It defines intimate images as a photo, film, or video where the victim is nude, exposing their genitalia, anal region, or breasts or is engaged in explicit sexual activity in circumstances where a person would have a reasonable expectation of privacy. A trip to the bathroom to use the toilet or shower is an obvious example of circumstances where most people would have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The new law says that everyone “who knowingly publishes, distributes, transmits, sells, makes available or advertises an intimate image of a person knowing that the person depicted in the image did not give their consent to that conduct, or being reckless as to whether or not that person gave their consent to that conduct, is guilty.”

That means that it doesn’t matter whether the person transmitting the image or video intended to cause the victim harm. All the crime requires is that the person knowingly made the material available and they either knew or were aware of the possibility that the image or video was taken without the victim’s consent and distributed it anyway.

Those guilty of this offense are looking at a maximum prison term of five years. Or if they get a summary conviction, a maximum of six months in jail and/or a two thousand dollar fine.

The law limits the kinds of defenses one can use against such a charge. The motives of the accused are considered irrelevant. The only way to get out of a charge under this law is to either prove you didn’t do it, or prove that your conduct somehow served the public good but did not go beyond the minimum required to do so.

This defense was clearly added to the law to protect journalists and investigators in the execution of their professions. A journalist who snaps and distributes a photo of a politician with a sex worker when the politician is anti-prostitution could find himself charged under this act, but could conceivably argue that his actions were for the good of the public and not excessive.

If criminal charges are not laid in the face of the distribution of a person’s intimate images, in Quebec you can always sue the distributor.

The Quebec Civil Code (“the Code”) guarantees the individual right to privacy and protects people from invasions of their privacy without their consent.

As per the Code, the following are particularly considered invasions of privacy:

  • Entering your home and taking something
  • Intentionally intercepting or using your private communications
  • Appropriating and using your voice or image while you are in a private place
  • Keeping your private life under observation by any means
  • Using your name, image, likeness, or voice for any purpose other than the “legitimate information of the public”
  • Using your correspondence, manuscripts, or personal documents

If your privacy is violated in this way resulting in physical, material, or psychological damages, you can sue the perpetrator. The catch is that lawsuits are costly and invasive and it would mean going public with the extent of the violation you experienced.

The laws in Canada regarding revenge porn and privacy are not perfect, but they’re there. In 2017, let’s protect ourselves and keep the scum of society in check.

2016 is ending and we can collectively agree it’s been a shitty year. Cops are spying on journalists, our Prime Minister has turned his back on the young people who elected him, comedians are being punished for their jokes, and icons from Prince to Bowie to Muhammad Ali to Carrie Fisher have left us. In the legal world it’s been an ongoing ugly parade and with the year FINALLY coming to an end, it’s time for a recap of some of the major legal issues affecting us this past year.

Syrian Refugee Crisis

The ongoing crisis in Aleppo has led to tons of refugees fleeing Syria. Unlike the US where debates regarding the refugee crisis were fraught with concerns about terrorism and an emphasis on keeping victims of Aleppo out, the Trudeau government took the moral high ground and pledged to welcome twenty-five thousand Syrian refugees. The Canadian government ended up going above and beyond this pledge and have thus far taken in thirty-eight thousand seven hundred and thirteen Syrian refugees.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

On February 3, 2016, Federal Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement on Canada’s behalf. Canada’s participation in the treaty was negotiated by the Harper government before its colossal defeat by the Liberals in 2015. Whether Parliament ratifies the agreement thus legally binding Canada remains to be seen.

Uber Crisis

Montreal taxi protest (photo Chris Zacchia)

Quebec cities were rife with cab drivers protesting Uber, a car service that is not bound by the ridiculous and expensive rules that must be obeyed by taxi drivers and company owners that specify everything from pricing and car specs to what the driver wears. In September 2016 Uber made a deal with the Quebec government which included Uber acquiring 300 taxi permits and obliging drivers to get a class 4C license and insurance. With the cab industry in Montreal already flooded, it remains to be seen whether this tentative deal will create peace between taxi companies and Uber.

Panama Papers

In April 2016 the decryption of the Panama Papers revealed the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to have helped many of the world’s wealthiest people hide their assets from governments. Those named included terrorists, CEOs, politicians, and athletes. Canadian tycoon and political wannabe Kevin O’Leary is dismissive of the papers, possibly because he too is hiding wealth from Canadian taxpayers for his own benefit.

Anti-Vaxxers and Naturopathic Remedies

David and Collet Stephan were convicted of failing to provide the necessaries of life for failing to get their son medical attention for bacterial meningitis. As the Stephans are anti-vaxxers distrustful of modern medicine, their 19-month old boy Ezekiel was instead treated with echinacea, garlic, onions, hot peppers and horseradish. By the time he was brought to a hospital it was too late and the boy died. David Stephan has since been sentenced to 4 months in prison while Collet to 3 months of house arrest. They have been ordered to bring their kids to a medical doctor once a year and a nurse every 3 months.

OQLF

Quebec Culture Minister Hélène David announced modifications to Quebec language laws that would force businesses with trademarked non-French names to add French to their signs. Though the proposal is clearly in retaliation for the government’s legal defeat against Best Buy in 2014, it remains to be seen whether the changes will go through in a province exhausted and fed up with language and cultural debates.

Ghomeshi Verdict

In May 2016 former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi signed a peace bond to settle a sexual assault trial. Though for many this is a slap on the wrist, his former victim Kathryn Borel celebrated the bond as a public acknowledgment of Ghomeshi’s guilt. The 12 month long bond guarantees Ghomeshi will go to prison should he violate its terms and does not limit the prosecution from going after him for other sexual assaults.

Mike Ward

Mike Ward (photo Cem Ertekin)

In July 2016 Montreal Comedian Mike Ward was ordered to pay $42 000 to a disabled kid and his mother for making fun of him in one of his jokes. The verdict, which Ward has sworn to appeal, has turned the Quebec Human Rights Commission from a means of social justice to one of censorship. No one has questioned why the kid went after Ward and not the bullies who used his joke to hurt him, but it’s likely due to Ward’s celebrity status and wealth.

Pitbull Ban

Following the death of a Pointe-Aux-Trembles woman after she was mauled by a dog, the City of Montreal has adopted a ban on dangerous breeds. The ban is hugely unpopular and has resulted in protests, the latest being the SPCA’s refusal to take in dogs following the Quebec Court of Appeal’s reinstatement of the ban after the Superior Court overturned it.

STM Fines

On September 7, 2016 the Municipal Court of Montreal ruled that fines given by STM rent-a-cops to people unable to produce their transfer is unconstitutional. The STM has vowed to appeal the decision.

Judge Robin Camp

In November 2016, Judge Robin Camp was recommended for removal from the bench by the Canadian Judicial Council following an inquiry into his conduct during a rape trial. Though the judge promised to reform, his behavior demonstrated such contempt for victims of sexual assault the Council ruled no amount of sensitivity training would repair his damage to the judiciary’s reputation.

Seafood and Civil Liability

In May 2016 Simon-Pierre Canuel ingested salmon at a bistro in Sherbrooke sending him into anaphylactic shock. He is now suing the restaurant and waiters for $415,000 though his negligence regarding his food allergy and rumours that he has tried to scam restaurants in the past make it unlikely he will get the full amount.

This past year has been full of legal debates that are as fascinating as they are numerous and outrageous. For every dispute brought before courts and councils we come closer to what we all strive for: a just society.

In 2017, let’s aim for just that.

Navigating holiday parties is tough for someone with poor impulse control such as myself. If I am told that I have three hours open bar I will take advantage of it. Three doubles and five shots later I am hugging a garbage can wondering where my beard is.

I wake up in my bed (thank god) with no bottoms, not even socks, and fully dressed on top, coat and all. Oh, there’s the beard, it was around my neck the whole time, right where it belongs. Is that lipstick or blood? God, I hope that’s red lipstick.

Nobody wants to be “that guy” at a holiday party. But that very guy is inside all of us just waiting for a few drops of alcohol to awaken his soul and activate party mode.

Drunk lesbian Santa is what makes Christmas beautiful. It’s not the children, it’s not the presents, it’s not the cheer or good will, it’s the wild and unabashed star on top of the tree that is the almost mythological drunk lesbian Santa.


I think about a lot of stuff around the holidays, missing my grandmothers, helping set up the tree. Just trying to hold it together when my family gets mad because I want to eat vegan, trying to be kind instead of combative. The holidays stress a lot of folks out. I try to deal with it by being numb and last minute.

I have not bought a single gift. Now I have like three days to shuffle around with all the last minute dads of the world to find those perfect morsels of gifts. Consumerism is crap, holidays are about celebrating and cherishing those you love right?

We have decided to throw a New Years Eve party this year instead of trying to deal with the let down of the bar scene. I want to get drunk and be safe, make sure all of my party people are safe too.

Here are 10 tips for throwing a kick ass holiday house party! Nobody wants to just be sitting around eating chips and dip listening to Bing Crosby. It’s also unrealistic to think that every house party is going to look like a scene from Animal House. You are in control of this party. The music, the food, the guests, the decorations, the venue, all of it.

  1. Invitees: The guest list is an important factor. Does everyone get along? Make sure to not be crazy like I am and accidentally get invite happy and spread your net too wide. Make sure you invite someone who can be a bouncer of sorts if things get out of control. Also invite someone who plans on being sober or mostly aware just in case there is a knock on the door from the cops or something else serious happens. Things can escalate very quickly, beware. Do you go with just the Facebook invite? Nah, invite some people in person, perhaps make a flyer or get some Lisa Frank Invitations and make people feel exclusive. Invite your neighbors so they don’t call the cops on you.
  2. Have Activities: Beer pong is always a winner, a deck of cards, or even some Cards Against Humanity. Nobody likes a boring party. These things should not be main attractions but rather backup plans. Make sure everyone is introduced. This way all of these friends of you and your roomies can come together and form new friendships. No babysitting of socially awkward friends.
  3. Hide All The Breakables: Turn your house into a kid friendly zone. Possibly cover everything in plastic like you are about to American Psycho the whole party. Put all the pets away, cats can easily escape when partygoers aren’t paying attention to the doors and dogs can be provoked by the drunks. Basically treat your animals like children, keep them safe and not afraid.
  4. Have Plenty of Room on the Dance Floor: Parties need stages. Each stage must have proper lighting for the goal. You need a dance floor (flashing lights, disco ball, fog machine optional), food and bar area well lit and accessible. And last but not least a stoner smoking den (very dimly lit) with lots of couch space and maybe some crazy triply cartoons playing in the background with no sound. Make sure the music is loud enough and on point, a mix of the classics and new cool stuff that fits the mood is necessary. Be mindful of changes in the crowd and feel of the party too so you can tweak the music to perfection. Everyone can be a DJ who has a laptop and some taste. KEEP THE MUSIC UPBEAT! Never ever let some depressing stuff pop in and be the Debbie Downer to your good vibes.
  5. No Zones: Block off all of the “no zones” so people aren’t trying to have sex in your roommates’ rooms. We are lucky that all of our bedrooms are upstairs so it is as easy as setting the bar up in front of the staircase.
    If that’s the party you are going for- orgy status that is- turn the whole place into a heart shaped mattress and make sure there are plenty of condoms around.
  6. Get a lot of Mixers: People will bring bottles of whiskey but forget the ginger ale. Equal opportunity drunk fest. BYOB means mostly bring your own booze, but with some exceptions. As a great host you should provide some libations. The more you have, consider having a donation jar or charging a small cover.
  7. Randos: Be careful of randos and underage drinking, this is very serious. If someone leaves your party and hurts someone or gets hurt, you are responsible too! Try to grab everyone’s keys, elect (and/or pay someone to be) a responsible key holder to call cabs for those who are too drunk to live but can’t spend the night. Perhaps the person who got the most fucked up at the last party and had to be babysat would be a great key holder.
  8. Food: Food selection should be diverse- something for everyone. Make sure the vegans are happy! I have gone to so many parties with just pizza and wings, the only vegan option being the celery and carrot platter, LAME.
  9. TP: Make sure you have plenty of toilet paper
  10. Clean Up: Prep for clean up. Set up trash receptacles and places to put recyclable empties to make clean up easier after the fact. Stock up breakfast food for the next day survivors (they will help you clean and you will feed them for it).

Nothing ever works out if you expect it to be perfect. Remember this is all supposed to be a fun celebration of love and debauchery. At the end of the day all of your rules and planning will go out the window, and that’s ok!

Finally, don’t be the most ratchet person at your party, everyone will remember.

On May 29, 2016 Simon-Pierre Canuel walked into Tapageur Bistro in Sherbrooke, Quebec with his partner and ordered beef tartare. He told the waiter, Julien Vézina, that he had a seafood allergy and not to bring him any fish.

Canuel was brought a dish that allegedly looked like beef in the restaurant’s poor lighting and began to eat it. The dish he ate was actually salmon, and Canuel went into anaphylactic shock. He was brought to the hospital where he fell into a two day coma after suffering a heart attack as a result of his allergic reaction.

In the aftermath of the event, Canuel’s waiter was arrested for criminal negligence. Quebec’s Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions opted not to press charges, having decided that the evidence indicated it was not criminal negligence on the part of the waiter. On December 16, 2016 the CBC reported that Simon-Pierre Canuel intends to sue the waiters and owners of Tapageur Bistro for $415 000 for the physical and psychological damage he suffered as a result of the incident.

According to his lawyer, the incident made Canuel’s heart so weak he couldn’t exercise until July. He claims that he suffers from anxiety and sleeping problems and has developed a food phobia. The damages Canuel is claiming consists of $390 000 for himself and $25 000 for his partner who was present when the incident occurred.

In order to understand how this lawsuit will play out, we need to talk a little about how civil liability and lawsuits work in Quebec.

Simon-Pierre Canuel (image: CBC)

Civil liability is covered under the Quebec Civil Code. As per the Code, every person has to abide by the rules and practices of conduct so as not to cause injury to another person. Where the person fails to do so and causes injury to another by such a fault, they are bound to make reparations for the injury, be it physical, moral (psychological) or material.

In order to successfully sue someone, the plaintiff in a civil case has to prove a direct link between the damages they suffered and the fault, if any, of the person(s) they are suing. The burden of proof is not as severe in civil suits as it is in criminal cases.

In criminal cases, guilt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, liability must be proven based on a balance of probabilities, meaning the court does not have to believe liability beyond a reasonable doubt, only that liability is more likely than not.

In order to get out of liability, the defendant has a few options. First, if the incident was a case of “force majeure”, meaning an unforeseeable inevitable or irresistible event like a lightning strike, the person is not liable. The defendant can also evade liability by proving they are not at fault or proving the plaintiff did not suffer any damages or greatly exaggerated the damages they did suffer.

The way the court decides on the defendant’s arguments is via the reasonable person test. The test is the asking of what precautions an average, reasonable person would have done in the same situation to avoid the damages.

Public opinion about Simon-Pierre Canuel’s case is divided and it’s easy to understand why.

The day Simon-Pierre Canuel walked into Tapageur Bistro with his partner he, by his own admission, left his EpiPen – the first line of defense against a potentially fatal allergic reaction – in his car. Food Allergy Canada, an organization that educates, supports and advocates for the needs of people with potentially fatal food allergies said in an op ed piece in August 2016 that mistakes can happen and that leaving his EpiPen in the car was one such mistake. They push the classic guilt trip helicopter parent argument:

“What if it was you or your child?”

This argument does not work because Simon-Pierre Canuel is NOT a child. He is a 34 year old adult who has presumably lived with a potentially fatal food allergy for many years. A reasonable person would suspect any food he did not prepare or supervise the preparation of. A reasonable person with a potentially fatal food allergy would have kept their EpiPen on them at all times.

Canuel claims he could not tell the dish he was served was fish due to the restaurant’s poor lighting. Being unable to see a food item does not necessarily mean you cannot tell it’s something you’re allergic to.

Salmon and beef have very different textures and very different smells. All it would take to tell one from the other is to move the food around with a fork and/or smell it. A reasonable person would not have blindly tasted his food, and could have had his dinner guest taste it for him just to make sure it was safe.

Simon-Pierre Canuel by all accounts did none of those things and a reasonable adult would know that restaurants screw up orders all the time. The only thing Tapageur Bistro is guilty of is screwing up his order.

If the restaurant is indeed at fault for serving Canuel a dish that almost killed him, Canuel is equally responsible for not taking the reasonable precautions an individual with severe food allergies would have taken when dining out. Fortunately, civil liability law in Quebec allows liability to be shared with several people including the victim.

The fact that prosecutors chose not to go after the waiter suggests that there was no liability here, just another restaurant employee that accidentally messed up an order. If someone with severe allergies is allowed to make a mistake of this magnitude, restaurants should be given some leeway too.

Does Canuel have a chance of winning his lawsuit? Maybe, but he’s unlikely to get all the money he asked for.

That’s just unreasonable.

* Featured image: estrieplus.com

In the last few months the animal rights debate in Quebec has been dominated by Montreal’s proposed pit-bull ban. One side argued that animals are not dangerous if they are raised right, while people in favor claimed it was necessary to protect humans from dangerous dogs. With all the discourse about whether we can protect humans from animals, it’s time to talk about the laws that protect animals from us.

On December 8, 2016 the Quebec Court came to a unique decision. Over the course of ten years, the SPCA had seized four dogs from the Alain Marchand, a man in Outaouais. The dogs had been neglected, abused and malnourished.

Marchand was charged under Quebec’s Animal Health Protection Act and the court undoubtedly realized he could not be trusted with a dog and fined him eighteen hundred dollars but also, for the first time in Quebec legal history, banned him from owning animals. Criminal charges of animal cruelty against Marchand are soon to follow.

Quebec Animal Health Protection Act

The Quebec Animal Health Protection Act has the goal of ensuring “an appropriate level of animal health protection is maintained.” The law establishes standards of hygiene, care, and disease control of livestock and domestic animals.

Specific rules for dogs and cats are established in the Regulation Respecting the Safety and Welfare of Cats and Dogs, which was enacted to work in conjunction with the Animal Health Protection Act. Its violation can result in the penalties set out in the Act, which range from two hundred and fifty dollars to two thousand four hundred and fifty dollars for a natural person (first offense) and six hundred and twenty-five dollars to six thousand seventy five dollars for a legal person such as a business.

The Regulation establishes the standard of care for cats, dogs, and their hybrids. The rules set out not only cover the owners of pet shops, breeding operations and obedience schools, but also set standards that must be obeyed by individual pet owners.

Dog and cat owners have to provide food and drinking water for their animals. The water has to be clean and free of contaminants like urine, feces and kitty litter. Snow and ice don’t count as sources of drinking water.

The animals have to get their biological needs met as per their species, size, growth stage, age, level of physical activity, state of health, whether they are gestating or lactating, and as per their ability to adapt to different levels of heat or cold.

Dogs and cats have to have access to a rest area at all times that is clean, dry, comfortable, and large enough for the animal to be able to lie on its side with its legs extended. This rest area has to provide shelter from the elements that could risk the animal’s health or cause it stress. Such elements include bad weather, sun, drafts, loud noises, and harmful gases.

Image via WikiHow Creative Commons

If you have a dog you want to keep mostly outdoors, the regulation restricts what kinds of animals can be kept mostly outdoors and under what circumstances. Only animals whose specific structural features, age, health, coat and who have the ability to adapt to heat or cold in such a way as to be protected from weather conditions can be kept mostly outside.

If the owner or caretaker of the animal doesn’t know the adaptability level of the animal to be kept outdoors, they have to plan for a gradual acclimatization period. The animal has to have a sturdy shelter made of durable non-toxic materials of a decent size to allow it to keep warm and protect it from the weather.

The regulation also covers the rope or chain used to keep an animal tied up outside, as well as the collar an animal wears. The rope or chain cannot cause discomfort for the animal due to its weight. It cannot be liable to get stuck or shortened by wrapping itself around an object, and has to allow the animal to safely move around and reach its food and water. Collars are not allowed to hurt the animal or restrict its breathing.

Muzzled animals cannot be left unattended.

The Canadian Criminal Code covers the worst animal cruelty offenses, and unlike the Quebec law and regulation, the penalties are not just financial but can also include a prison sentence.

Criminal Animal Cruelty Offenses

There are three types of animal cruelty offenses in the Criminal Code.

The first is the act of Causing Unnecessary Suffering which includes willfully causing or permitting unnecessary pain, suffering, or injury to an animal, willfully giving an animal or bird poison or harmful drug or substance, and even getting money for promoting or arranging hunts where captive birds are liberated for the sole purpose of being shot. Penalties for this kind of offense can be up to five years in prison if you’re indicted or up to eighteen months in jail and/or a maximum fine of ten thousand dollars if you get a summary conviction.

The second type of animal cruelty offense is Causing Damage or Injury. This entails damaging animals while driving them through willful neglect, and willfully abandoning an animal or failing to provide food, water, shelter and care. This offense can result in up to two years in prison or a maximum fine of two thousand dollars and/or six months in jail.

For some kinds of these first two offenses there’s a legal presumption that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the person is presumed guilty, a reversal of the innocent-until-proven-guilty standard in criminal law.

The third type of offense is about cockpits and punishes the owner of a location used to hold cockfights. The penalty can be up to five years in prison or if a summary conviction, a ten thousand dollar fine and/or up to eighteen months in jail.

With all the talk about how humans need to be protected from animals, it’s time we look back at how to protect animals from humans. People can yell and write letters and picket, but dogs and cats can only scratch, bite, growl, bark or meow in order to be heard.

It’s time we remember that we can fight back better than they can and protect them for the vulnerable beings they are.

* Featured image: blacklemag.com Creative Commons

I’m a painter and a shaker. I am a cat watching shadows on the wall. Turning 30 at the Rise of the Apocalypse, the lead singer of a non existent band, a legend in my own mind.

Today I don’t want to get out of bed, I don’t want to do anything with myself. I had a literal snow day yesterday, the kind kids dream of. I could have wrote a blog or cleaned my room and did none of the above. It was a two robe kind of day, bitter diamond cutter nipple cold house shaking wind and bizarre thundersnow.

The first blog I ever wrote for Forget the Box was about the infamous Knife Storm. It cut Buffalo in half, dumping on the south and nothing where I was. My city is famous for being buried in snow.

At the time I was seeing this cute bearded artist and he go stuck on the other side of the snow wall and ended up shacking up with some girl for a week. That should have been it. Another week later he was arrested in my car with her in the passenger seat.

I have never been so pissed off. I have the worst judgement. I met him by a bonfire at a music festival.

I have never understood how to be romantic, how to pursue someone, how to play it cool but show interest. I am insane, eternally 14, clueless about so much and misinformed about the remainder.

I always seem to say the wrong things, I take it too far, push the joke waaay farther then necessary. Awkward sauce. I feel like I was a puzzle piece that was dropped on the floor and then put in the wrong box and donated to a thrift store. I never quite fit. My life is a puzzle with one piece missing.

My roommate started doing a 1000 piecer the other day. It was a winter wonderland Christmas scene. She diligently worked on it all week. Every damn piece looks the same to me, all the colors seem to blur together. It juuussst doesn’t fit.

Puzzles have always frustrated me, but I know now that I need to learn how to be more patient and Zen when it comes to stuff like that. Do the outside and work inwards. Start with the parts that are easy. When completed it is sweet satisfaction.

At one point I started to help her and was encouraged when some things fit, the puzzle was already at like 87% completion, none of which I had helped on until this point. I quickly lost interest and just wanted to go get a drink before our favorite dive bar closed at 4am. So I took the remaining pieces and just piled them on top of the empty spaces. Exclaiming that we were done and deserved a treat, we went on to the bar to celebrate.

I stood there in the bar, a vision in my yellow dress with matching neon yellow hair. At one point there was a tall sexy man on either side of me, it was glorious. One I had kissed recently and the other was someone I have quietly crushed on for a bit (one of those people that seems so far out of my league). He swooped in and kissed me on the mouth. We danced. I felt like the queen of the ball. How could I chose between these two?

I don’t know what I want, forever confused. I used to like people because they liked me, I now know that it takes more than that to grab my attention. Feast or famine though, I ended up running into the dark cold night alone, cuddling with my sweet furry kitties, sobbing over my insecurities.

It’s hard for me to juggle the attention of multiple people. I am not used to the attention of one, let alone several. I am hesitant about polyamory.

I used to only fall for gay men, never attracted to the status quo. I love artists, musicians, writers, creative people who know how to express themselves, most likely full of internal torture just like me. I used to only desire tall men, but then shortly realized that tall guys only seemed to be into the shortest littlest girls in the world. I mean yes, it is cute to see a tiny person with a giant, and everyone is attracted to those they are attracted to, unapolegetically true, and there is nothing anyone can do about it.

I love humans of ALL shapes and sizes, all genders and preferences too.  I see the world differently than when I was a kid, but I am still a giant seeking love. That’s all I want.

My dad wanted to take me Christmas shopping. I could think of NO THING that I wanted, no physical thing, I am not the little brat who wants a Barbie car anymore. I don’t want electronics or diamonds. I asked for storage so I can get my room in order and art supplies.

What I really want is for people to stop being racist, I want people to stop throwing out food and start caring about the hungry, I want love to spread like fire, I want the oppression felt worldwide to end. I know I have privilege, but what can I do to use it for the good of all? Spread it out between us all. We distract ourselves with the pursuit of sex and the magic of the holidays.

I am Bah-humbugging out here! It makes me sick to think of all the greed this time of year, hoards of undereducated drones playing with cellphones and tablets. Get your hands dirty and learn about diversity.

We all look at the headlines (or lack there of) and post a sad emogi on Facebook, we do nothing to change the world. We know how many shopping days till Christmas but play dumb about Aleppo, or Standing Rock, or police taking blankets from the homeless.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who I have kissed or what I do to pass the time, the only thing that matters is compassion and living life to its full potential. It is easy to get wrapped up in yourself. Take the time to open your eyes and focus on the world at large. Give your energy to righteous causes, fight for those who need a hand, see beauty even when some pieces are missing.